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Volvo CE unveils the next generation of its autonomous electric load carrier concept

Volvo Construction Equipment (CE) the HX2 autonomous, battery-electric, load carrier at CONEXPO/CON-AGG 2017. The second-generation concept machine is part of an electric site research project that aims to transform the quarry and aggregates industry, reducing carbon emissions by up to 95% and total cost of ownership by up to 25%.

Volvo CE showcased the first-generation of the prototype HX machine—HX1—at the company’s Xploration Forum in September last year. Since then, Volvo CE’s engineers have been further developing the machine.

The HX2 is fundamentally different to the HX1. The HX1 was proof of concept. Once we knew it was feasible we updated the design requirements for the HX2 to incorporate shared technologies and components from the Volvo Group, such as electric motors, batteries and power electronics. Integrating a completely new drivetrain was crucial to take full advantage of the groundbreaking electromobility developments that are happening inside the Volvo Group. Another new feature is the addition of a vision system, which allows the machine to detect humans and obstacles in its vicinity.

—Uwe Müller, Volvo CE’s chief project manager for the electric site project“

The electric site project aims to electrify a transport stage in a quarry—from excavation to primary crushing and transport to secondary crushing. It involves developing new machines, work methods and site management systems. As well as a small fleet of HX2s, other prototype machines that make-up the electric site system include a prototype electric hybrid wheel loader and a grid-connected excavator. New technology encompasses machine and fleet control systems and logistic solutions for electric machines in quarries.

The LX1 is Volvo CE’s prototype electric hybrid wheel loader—it was also unveiled at the Xploration Forum last year. The machine can deliver up to a 50% improvement in fuel efficiency, as well as significant reductions in emissions and noise pollution compared to its conventional counterparts. It is currently being field tested in the US by Volvo CE’s customer Waste Management—the largest environmental services and recycling company in North America. So far, feedback has been positive.

The LX1 is a series hybrid that incorporates a driveline that consists of electric drive motors mounted at the wheels, electric driven hydraulics, an energy storage system, a significantly smaller diesel engine and new machine architecture, including a new design of the lifting unit. It’s this combination that enables the substantial gain in fuel efficiency. The prototype—which has 98% new parts and a fundamentally new machine design—can do the work of a wheel loader that’s one size larger.

Volvo CE teamed up with its customer Skanska Sweden, the Swedish Energy Agency and two Swedish universities—Linköping University and Mälardalen University—in October 2015 to collaborate on the SEK 203-million (US$23-million) project. Volvo CE is coordinating the project and is in charge of developing the machines and systems. Skanska Sweden is providing logistical solutions, application relevance and job site knowledge. The Swedish Energy Agency—a government agency for national energy policy issues—is helping to fund the project and the universities are carrying out research. Two PhD students are looking at battery aging and energy management for electric vehicles, as well as functional safety.

Skanska Sweden will incorporate the demonstration machines into its operations and test the electric site concept at a quarry in western Sweden for 10 weeks at the end of 2018. After this, Volvo CE will examine the project results to see if the concept is viable for the industry. Currently this work is just a research project, with no plans for industrialization at this stage.


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